The dilapidated basement Hobbes had found to use as a staging point for the resistance, upon deciding St. Josephine's wasn't the most secure place for planning such things, was dark, dirty and smelled bad. And that was before he'd hung the sweaty, bloody assassin they'd captured from the ceiling.
Even thinking that made Erica wince. She was a federal agent and as such was unused to stringing a prisoner up on a meat hook. Why there was one attached to the ceiling, she hadn't wanted to ask, but now saw the use for it. Sure, she'd have preferred a nice holding cell, but with their limited resources they couldn't be too choosey.
After the man's disheartening statement of his reasoning for killing members of the fifth column, Erica had stepped back and moved over to the bank of computers, taking a seat but not touching the machine. Hobbes had sneered at the man then stalked over to the cork board he had pinned pictures and plans to. Father Jack disappeared into one of the small side alcoves, knowing he couldn't pay a visit to Alex's father till the morning.
She supposed every resistance had it's setbacks and opposition…heck, that was pretty much implied. It was a resistance, obviously they were resisting something. But, up to tonight, they had assumed their only real opposition, excluding the authorities who believed them to be terrorists, would be aliens. This man, who had been targeting their potential allies, was as human as any of them.
It was enough to shake Erica a bit.
Hobbes seemed more angry than anything. Then again, he was used to being hunted by his fellow humans. He was a terrorist, one of the people Erica was supposed to be hunting but now worked with. She blinked, swallowing heavily, thinking of all the terrorists who insisted they were freedom fighters. If she was caught, she'd insist her intentions were true. The not so amusing irony made her snort to herself.
After several minutes of sitting there, contemplating the floor, Erica pulled herself out of the chair and wandered over to the nook Jack had retreated to. What she saw made her heart hurt.
He'd apparently tried to wash Alex's blood off in the cracked industrial sink. His brown leather jacket lay on the floor and both his olive-grey sweater and black shirt were draped over the side of the sink, leaving the priest in a worn grey t-shirt. Jack himself was sitting on the floor, back to the wall and knees drawn up to his chest. Elbows rested on his knees and his bowed head lay in his hands.
Erica watched him for a moment, noting the rust colored remnants of blood still visible in the line's of Jack's knuckles. Sitting there on the floor, he looked hurt and she bit her lip, a realization hitting home.
Jack wasn't like her and Hobbes. He wasn't a fighter and yet tonight he'd held a man as he died and then shot another man. True, it hadn't been a kill shot, but the first time a person pulled the trigger and hurt a fellow man…it was something that effected you.
"Jack," she said, stepping into the tiny alcove and sliding down the opposite wall to sit across from him. "How are you doing?"
He raised his head and looked at her with tired, reddened eyes. "I promised his father I'd try to keep Alex safe," he said in a strained voice, then shook his head. "I guess that's a promise none of us should be making, hmm?"
Erica sighed and let her hand rest atop his, which had fallen to rest folded on his knees. "Tell him his son died bravely. That he was trying to help, despite being scared," she said. "His dad was a soldier. He'll understand that."
Jack nodded silently and let his head fall back against the wall. Erica let her eyes drift to the long, exposed line of his neck, the strong tendons and prominent Adam's apple on display without the white collar.
"So…" she wasn't sure what to say, but wanted to switch the topic. Then she thought of something. "Were you shooting to wing our unhappy guest out there, or do we have to work on your aim?"
He actually chuckled at her question, Adam's apple bobbing interestingly. "My aim is fine, Erica," he assured her, face still tipped up to the ceiling.
"You know, in the Bureau we have to speak with a shrink after being involved in a shooting," she offered gently, "The first time is always the hardest. So if you want to talk, I'm here."
Jack made a noise in his throat before speaking. "You know, in the two World Wars, medics and chaplains were considered safe. Enemy combatants would go out of their way to not shoot someone wearing a red or gold cross. That doesn't hold true anymore…medics are often priority targets and chaplains are considered non-combatants."
"I was embedded with a combat patrol in a little village outside of Baghdad. There was one night when, over the course of eight hours, we were involved in five fire fights. I started out driving and working the radio, but I'd had field medic training as well, so ended up out of the trucks, trying to help the wounded."
Erica blinked, surprised, but held her tongue. She hadn't known Jack spent time in the military. He'd never said anything about it before and, at another time, she'd definitely ask him about it.
"I was trying to patch up Byers through and through shoulder wound when Mike Valenz, my assistant took a bullet. There was no one to cover us, so when I had to make the choice…I picked up his weapon and defended my fallen friends. They both made it, but I killed a man that night and it wasn't an isolated incident. Six years…you see and do things you never could have imagined."
When he fell silent, Erica pondered his words, then said, "I didn't know you were in the service."
"Two tours," he said, rolling his neck and looking at her. "That's one of the reason's I wasn't too eager to join up with this fight in the first place. I thought I needed to reaffirm my faith before taking on another struggle. But, I guess you don't always get to take a time out."
"I wish," she said mirthfully, then leaned forward to poke him in the bicep…not at all taking a moment to enjoy the firm muscles under her fingers. "You know, telling us you had some combat experience would have been a good idea. We need to know what everyone can bring to the table."
"Noted," he replied, then heaved a sigh. "I suppose we should go make sure Hobbes hasn't somehow managed to silently kill….what are we calling him? Our prisoner, the assassin…."
Erica shrugged, winced, then said, "Idiot will work."
With a nod, Jack cast a concerned look at her and stretched out one of his long arms, rough pads of his fingers brushing against her jaw, careful not to touch the still forming bruises. "You took a couple of good hits," he said as his eyes bounced from the bruises down to her covered torso. "Anything that might need treatment?"
"Just some bruises," she assured him, then, at his skeptical look, she added, "I'll probably be pretty sore in the morning."
He nodded, then smoothly pushed himself to his feet and reached down, offering her a hand up. Clasping his hand, she gave a slight grunt of pain as he pulled her up beside him.
The tiny alcove suddenly seemed much smaller, as she stood there, close enough to smell leather, old paper and soap, a smell she had come to associate with Jack. It was especially nice when compared to the generally unpleasant scent of the basement.
Her eyes followed the shoulder seam of his soft, worn t-shirt, trailing down to his chest, only inches from her in the tiny space. Standing there, hands still clasped together, she felt his soft breath stir her hair and she looked up, blue eyes locking on blue….
As footsteps clattered down the short flight of stairs that led into the room, they both startled and moved out into the main room, Erica freeing a hand to settle on her gun.
Fortunately, it was Ryan arriving with a confused, angry woman (obviously his fiancée Valerie) in tow and not a V or human assassin. Though from the look on his face, Ryan probably would have been more comfortable facing someone who wanted to kill him than he was bringing Valerie here.
"What is this….Oh my God! Why is there a man hanging from the ceiling?!"
Yeah, Erica did not envy Ryan…or Valerie really. The reality of this new world was about to be dumped on the woman, but there were things she needed to know if she was going to survive.
The war had begun, blood had been shed and victory was not assured. But they were going to fight or die trying.
So, what do you guys think? Shall I continue or leace it as a one shot?